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A Cluttered Life


hopeless - heI have really been struggling with my motivation lately especially in regards to my money making jobs.  I recognize what one of the main problems is, at least I think, but I am really hoping for some nuggets of wisdom from the BAD community.

I recognize that I have been so blessed with the work I get to do.  In addition, I am blessed that work seems to show up when I need it most through little or no effort on my part (as far as marketing goes that is.)  I do not take this for granted at all, but lately I’ve found myself shooting myself in the foot with these opportunities rather than grabbing them and running with them.  Ugh, that sounds horrible and I hate to say it, but I’ve got to turn around and I need to be honest.

I think the issue is that my To Do list is just so long that I feel overwhelmed and instead of picking things up and getting them done so I can mark them off the list, I just roll over and do something else completely that has no value at all (read watch TV episodes on my iPad rather than work.)  This is not normal for me. I thrive on being busy, but lately it’s just overwhelming to me.

It’s gotten so bad lately that even my To Do lists aren’t getting made.

So this last week I recognized just how over-scheduled I was.  In a seven day period, I had exactly one solid work day and even then I was supposed to spend half of it at my part time job. This is definitely not normal but I think it was a wake up call to myself that something has to give.  So here are the questions I’m running through my head as I try to tackle this:

  1. How do I get myself motivated to tackle my To Do list of work items without feeling overwhelmed especially when I combine my home and work lists together?
  2. How do I deal with the guilt I feel when my kids ask “what are going to do or can we watch a family movie?” and my respond almost 90% of the time is “I have to work?”
  3. How do I balance everything?  For some reason, this summer for the first time, I just am so overwhelmed with everything going on.  And again, I thrive on busyness so this is a really new feeling.

I am hoping that by putting this out there I can clear this blockage that has really been negatively affecting my money making jobs, my home life and my attitude in general.  I’m sorry if this is rambling, but I hope you get my point.



Paying for the Experience


We’ve just returned from a long weekend road trip that was really a combination of picking up History Buff from his Judicial camp and dropping off Sea Cadet at his Boot Camp and Princess at her Basketball camp. It was three days of 4-7 hours of driving each. At the last minute I decided to turn it into a little mini vacation and try to do some fun things along the way instead of just drive and drop as originally planned.

So I reached into the monies saved for our second big road trip of the summer (coming up end of July) and we did a couple of unique things that we cannot do near our house.

First, after picking up History Buff I determined that the Virginia Safari was on a different route but really only added about 15 minutes of drive time (and we didn’t have to be at our next destination til the following afternoon.) I chose this adventure for two reasons….you have to understand that the first time my 15 year olds had been to a zoo was last year.  Can you imagine that?  I cannot.  So I do my best to squeeze in as much life into our time together as possible as they are nearing independence and I want them to have had these life experiences.  And two, how cool is it to see exotic animals, tough exotic animals AND feed exotic animals.

It cost just under $80 for our admission and 4 buckets of food, but the experience PRICELESS!  The kids literally took hundreds of pictures as they traded off sitting in the front seat, so here are a couple of my favorites.

History Buff taking a selfie with ???

History Buff taking a selfie with ???

Little Gymnast feeding a ???

Little Gymnast feeding a ???

Sea Cadet holding a bird

Sea Cadet holding a bird

After leaving there, and knowing this was our last day as a family for at least two weeks, I discovered that Hershey, PA was just 20 minutes from our drop off point for Sea Cadet and a very short detour from our route. So, of course, we stopped there we visited Chocolate World!  Tell me the name doesn’t make you want to check it out!

The little ones and I had been there years ago, but the older ones hadn’t so while we were in the area I decided that we had to do it.  Entry was free, parking was free and the only money we spent was on the Create Your Own Candy Bar attraction $75 for the 5 of us.)  We did some of the free things and walked around a bit too.

Here we are at Chocolate World getting ready to make our chocolate!

Here we are at Chocolate World getting ready to make our chocolate!

So in all, I borrowed about $155 from our big road trip fund, but I think the experiences and memories will last a lifetime. Now to figure out where that money is going to be repaid from in such a short amount of time…

One Last No-Spend Update


Today marks the last day of June and I’ve got some positive results to report! I’ve managed to do really well (surprisingly well) with our no-spend week and a half! I say “surprisingly well” because it actually wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be! I attribute this to having a freezer full of food to eat (including some already prepared meals in addition to many frozen meats). Using “rollover meals” (where you cook the meat once, then repurpose leftovers into different meals) helped keep us from being bored with leftovers, too.

We did have to run to the grocery store for some milk (which I, personally, could have gone without but the toddlers’ need as part of their daily diet), but aside from that, no money was spent at the grocery store.

The much more difficult task, for me, was in finding things to do with the girls to keep us occupied. When we stay home for more than a day or two the girls start getting restless and acting out. But I think we did a good job of finding fun free things to do in that regard, too! In addition to the things I mentioned in my last no spend post, we also went to the book store (our used book store sent us a free $10 coupon for the girls’ birthday, so we used our credit and didn’t pay anything out-of-pocket), and also met a friend at a free splash pad. I almost spent money on that because there is a nicer, newer splash pad close to our house. It’s free for children under 3, but it costs $7 for adults. But then I remembered about the free splash pad and decided it was worth the drive. It’s about 30 minutes from my house (as opposed to 15), so I suppose there’s a gasoline and time-investment, but I had a full tank and time available so I decided it was worth the trek to save myself the entry fee. I’d still like to check out the new one by my house (we’ve never been, but I’ve heard great things), but that can wait for a new month.

Why did I institute a no-spend week??? Well….because I was over budget across several categories. Sigh.

I was going to try to get the budget update post up today, but time has gotten away from me so it won’t be up until Friday.

Hope to see you then!

Kid Free


Not debt related, but had to share anyways as I am so excited…

Last night I dropped off my younger two at the local Christian camp for the week, and my eldest twin at a friend’s house a city away for the week.  Last Sunday, I dropped off the other twin at another TeenPact event at a local college campus for the week. Do you see where I’m going with this?

I am totally and completely kid free from last night (Tuesday) until Friday afternoon…KID FREE!

Do you know when that happens as a single, homeschooling, working from home mom…ABSOLUTELY NEVER!

I don’t know what all I am going to do with my time…but I know I will fill it.  And there’s not anything debt related I can say with this, but I will put this out there…

If you know a single mom (or dad,) a passing acquaintance even, it would really nice to offer her a break.  In my, granted biased opinion, being parent is one of the hardest jobs ever and while it is super rewarding in so many ways…I think every mom deserves a break every now and again, and us single mom’s, well we don’t get them.  So if you can…reach out to one, I promise you that it will make a world of difference to her spirit.

I will now step off my single mom soapbox and resume my debt payoff journey.

Expenses = Income???


One of my academic mentors, upon receiving tenure (and an associated raise) made the comment, “Expenses rise to meet income.”

This has certainly been something I’ve seen in my own life. Every time you make a little more, your expenses experience an equal boost, right? All the sudden you “need” new stuff. A new position might mean you need a new wardrobe. Or longer hours at work might mean you need to hire yard people since you no longer have time, or you start taking your car for paid car washes instead of doing it yourself, etc etc etc. If you get a really big bump in salary then maybe you decide to move to a newer house in a nicer area of town, or you treat yourself to a new car. All of this stuff comes with recurring payments attached. Am I right?

So with our recent bump in income I’ve been trying really hard to still see ourselves the same way….not to think about our larger income and to continue living the same way, funneling the extra money toward debt.

But I have succumbed and taken on a new monthly expense.

I joined a gym.

Hear me out….

I haven’t had a (paid) gym membership in YEARS. As a graduate student I had free access to the gym on campus, and since running is my primary exercise passion, I have always been able to do that outside for free (only costs associated are shoes and appropriate exercise clothes…maybe a song here and there from itunes). But things have been very challenging lately.

First, I no longer have access to a gym for free (remember I graduated in August 2013). Second, the girls will only sit in a jogging stroller for about 30 minutes, max. And finally (the final straw), it has reached near-death-heat here in Tucson. I’m talking over 100* every day with heat advisory warnings just about every third or fourth day. It is literally not even safe to be outside.

At first I tried to counteract this by jogging extremely early in the morning. I tried waking up at 5am to go run (so the girls are still sleeping and my husband is home, plus its only about 75* instead of 105*). It hasn’t worked well. I have a tough time waking up that early on my own, and my daughters are light sleepers (plus our house isn’t huge), so they have woken up when my alarm goes off. Then it’s a total disaster because my husband is trying to get ready for work (he usually leaves between 6 and 6:30am), so I have to go for a really short run so I can get home in time to allow my husband time to get ready. At that point, it doesn’t even feel “worth it.” I have tried other forms of exercise (like DVDs or free videos on youtube), but I get bored. Videos are not for me.

In the past, my health and fitness had always been a big priority for me. I would consider myself an “athlete,” as I have competed in a handful of races (triathlons, half-marathons, and other various running races), and enjoy physical activities and competitions. When I found out I was pregnant with twins (20 weeks into pregnancy) I was deemed “high risk” and had to stop many physical activities. Once the girls were born, my fitness was the LAST thing on my mind. I had twin infants to care for, virtually by myself (husband helped a TON, but he worked during the day and we have no family nearby for support), in addition to working (at the time I was teaching in-person college courses) and finishing my dissertation.

Here we are, almost 2 years later (the girls will be 2 at the end of this month! Eeek!) and I finally have a chance to refocus a bit on my health. Things do NOT look pretty. My weight is still WAY higher than my pre-pregnancy weight and I just don’t feel good. It’s so weird because I still “see” myself as an athlete…..but I am totally unhealthy right now (that’s not just me exaggerating…that’s according to BMI). I need to make exercise more of a priority in my life. I tried other free options and they really didn’t work. So I turned to a gym.

On the bright side, the gym is fantastic. It’s only about a mile from our house and has everything we could ever want: a pool, exercise classes, tons of equipment, volleyball, racquetball, basketball, etc etc etc. There were cheaper options nearby, but no one else offered childcare. Childcare is an absolute necessity if I’m going to be able to actually use the gym. So this was the only real option in our area.

I also feel that its pretty reasonably priced. I had to pay $100 as an initiation fee, and they make you pay first and last month up front, but there’s no contract so we can quit at anytime. They also worked a deal where they gave me a family plan (so Chris can go, too) for the same price as the “individual” plan. The cost is $50/month. To get childcare I had to pay an extra $10 per child, but it’s for unlimited use of childcare. I think this is a pretty good deal. When the girls were 6 months they went to daycare at the Jewish Community Center (we aren’t Jewish, but it is a FABULOUS facility and EXCELLENT childcare providers! Very $$$$$, but very high quality!). The JCC requires that you join the facility when you use their childcare, so I’m comparing these prices to that experience. The community center fees (which includes gym access) cost $80/month for the family, and gym childcare was an additional $6/hour.

In all, our current gym will cost $70/month ($50 base + $20 for unlimited childcare). I think that’s reasonable considering everything that’s included. Keep in mind that our first month is substantially more expensive since we pay first and last month in addition to the initiation fee. So my first payment was actually $240 ($100 initiation, plus $140 for the first and last months’ payments). I am allowed to drop the childcare, too (if, for example, I decide to work out on days they’re in daycare. Right now I want to avoid that because those are my only days to really focus on work, but it’s a possibility for the future).

To be totally honest with myself and you, I fully believe I would NOT have considered joining the gym if it weren’t for our extra income. Chris was pushing hard around January to join a gym and I totally put my foot down. I did not want to spend the money and did not think we could afford it. But I’ve really started focusing more on my health and my (lack of) fitness has become alarming. I think this is a worthwhile investment in my long-term health.

So there you have it. I’m sure people have opinions both ways (for and against spending money on gyms), but everyone is different, every situation is unique, and I think that this is the best option right now for my family. It still hurts a little to spend this extra money, but I do think its money well spent.


Do you spend money on a gym membership? What are free/cheap ways that you stay in shape?

Confessions of a Cheese-aholic


When I shared my surprise grocery budget buster (CHEESE!) it seemed like a LOT of people could relate!

So in the spirit of my money saving tricks series, I wanted to give a little update on how we’ve been doing with cutting back our cheese consumption (not that these are “tricks,” but you get the point)….

First, I’ve made a big list of our family’s favorite go-to dinner ideas. I used to have a list I kept of meals, more for inspiration than anything else. But it got lost awhile back and I never made a new one. This was an important first step because of a couple reasons: (1) it still gives me inspiration when I need a quick dinner and it seems like there’s “nothing to eat” (even with a full fridge/freezer), and (2) I can reference it to find lots of meals our family loves that do not include cheese. This coincides nicely with this month because I happen to be trying to do a clean eating thing, so a lot of our normal meal rotations (enchiladas, lasagna, etc.) that are cheese-heavy aren’t being consumed anyway. We’ve been doing lots of grilled meat, steamed veggies, and a slice of homemade bread/toast. Simple, easy, and delicious (healthy, too!)

Second, I’ve tried to use cheese as more of a “garnish” than a main component of a meal. Instead of making homemade macaroni and cheese (emphasis on the cheeeeeese), I might make a homemade pasta salad with just a sprinkling of parmesan on top. It helps that its so hot out right now because we’ve been craving “lighter” foods anyway.

And last, when I do indulge in cheese (which I have tried to do more sparingly than in the past), I have actually measured it out. This was a tip I got from you guys (in comments on the first post) and it has really helped. It’s so easy to just “eyeball it” and round up on cheese portions! This has really kept me in check.

The other day I allowed myself a little snack of brie with crackers. Instead of taking half the block of brie (like I wanted), I sliced off just the tip (heh), wrapped back up the brie, and put it away. No cheating with extras!

IMG_3360Excuse the horrific photo! We all know photography is not my forte!

Of course, now that I’ve written this whole post about cheese…..I want some! Ha!

Overall, though, I think we’ve done well limiting our cheese consumption. I’ve gotta tell you – I think the girls have taken it harder than me! Allow me to share a little (true!) story….

One day I was in the kitchen trying to get dinner together. One of my daughters has really taken an interest in cooking and will often come into the kitchen with me, push her little toddler chair over, stand on top of it, and watch me prepare food on the counters (chopping, mixing, etc.). So, I thought nothing of it when, one evening, she pushed her chair over to see what was happening. I had left the cheese unattended on one counter while I was turned around (my back to her) chopping up veggies on the kitchen island. I scooped up the veggies and turned to go back to the rest of the dinner stuff. Imagine my surprise when I turn to find dear daughter had the entire 1 lb. block of cheese and was gnawing chewing on the corner of the block. I had to laugh at all the little teeth marks. When I took it away, she started shrieking “SHEESE!!! SHEESE!!!” (toddler translation:  cheese! cheese!) while reaching for more!

Since then I’ve had to carefully guard the cheese during any dinner prep!

Although we haven’t had a great deal of cheese in our meals lately, we really haven’t missed it too much. I think it has certainly helped our grocery budget, too. Of course, this month we seemed to run out of every personal hygiene item in the world (seriously – shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant …ran out of everything at once!). I hate eating up our grocery budget with non-food items, but it only happens once every few months (and generally we don’t run out of everything at once!). Since my envelope mishap I’ve been guarding it closely so we’ll see how the rest of the month goes.

Here’s one last cheese-related trick/tip for you….

A long time ago I learned that you can substitute cottage cheese in place of ricotta for lasagna! Cottage cheese is much cheaper than ricotta and when its cooked, you seriously cannot tell the difference at all! I’d share credit, but I cannot even remember where I learned this (I’ve been doing it for years and no one is the wiser).

Share your tips with me! I just saw Jordan (from this blog) share a tip on Facebook about making homemade macaroni and cheese using sweet potato puree, which makes it healthier and also cuts down on the amount of cheese used.

What have you done to save money on groceries lately?


Fell off the wagon


I’ve got a confession. I fell off the wagon. I am disappointed in myself, but it is what it is. All I can do is pick myself up, dust myself off, and jump right back on. Here’s what happened.

It all started early on Wednesday morning. I was talking to my Mom on the phone and during the conversation I tried to throw my husband a blanket but accidentally threw my phone along with the blanket (no idea how it happened – freak accident). Well, the phone fell face down on our tile floor and the screen shattered into a million pieces. It was unusable. I cannot go without a phone (we have no land line so during the day when my husband works my cell is the only way I have to contact people and/or dial 911 in case of emergency).

I quickly came up with a game plan for the day. I had a TON of work to get done, so I would drop the girls off at daycare, run by the grocery store, and come back home to call around about screen replacements (I’d already looked up several places, but none opened until 9am), and get my phone situation handled. With any luck, I’d be done by noon and still have a solid 4.5 hours to work before needing to get the girls from daycare.

So I started off on my day. Dropped off the girls at 9am and went to the grocery store. Mistake #1 – I forgot my money envelopes! Doh!!! No time to go home, so I just used my debit card. First stop was Sprouts (for produce and cheese), next stop was Albertsons (they’re having amazing meat sales so I stocked up on ribs and steaks). Surprise, surprise…these trips caused me to go over my grocery budget (not by a lot, but still disappointing. Numbers below).

I come home, rush to put groceries away, and call several places about screen repair. Cheapest I could find was $110, but they were booking a week in advance. This was not an option. I literally couldn’t even hold my phone to my ear because the shattered glass was cutting me! I needed same day repair. Cheapest price I could find was $150. Ouch! This busts my budget, but I consider my phone an absolute necessity, so I’ll chalk this up as an “emergency fund” item (to clarify – I did not have to dip into our emergency fund since we had enough money to cover it, but I do consider this a type of emergency that would require the money even though it busts the budget). I rush to the mall (believe it or not, the Apple store was actually the cheapest place). It’s about 10:30am.

I wait in the lines to talk to a Genius, go over the issue, and by the time I hand off my phone its 11am. I’m told it will take 30-45 minutes and to come back at that time. So I walk around the mall.

Here’s where things really go downhill…..

My hands are dried and cracking. I wash them about a million times a day (before preparing food and snacks, after diaper changes, washing dishes, etc etc etc), plus I live in the Arizona desert climate. My hands look rough (they literally crack and bleed around the knuckles. Cute stuff). I LOVE Aveda’s hand cream so I drop into the store and buy a bottle. Nevermind the $22 price tag. (ouch!)

I’m still walking around. Now it’s about 11:30 and I’m getting hungry. Guess I’ll buy a sandwich and drink. $12 later I’ve now busted my “eating out” budget that I’d worked so hard to stay within all month.

I go back to Apple, pick up my phone, and pay the bill. After taxes and everything it amounted to $159.

It was 2 days before the end of the month and I went from being at or under-budget in every category (other than “other”…see below) to going over budget in just about every category. : /

Final spending for the month in my Money Envelope Categories:

  • Groceries: Budgeted = $380, Actual = $406
  • Entertainment: Budgeted = $20, Actual = $17
  • Eating Out: Budgeted = $75, Actual = $87
  • Personal Maintenance: Budgeted = $20, Actual = $28
  • Other: Budgeted = $125, Actual = $293

Every single overage was caused on this one single day. Groceries because I forgot my money envelope and just bought stuff on debit. Eating out because of the stupid $12 sandwich and drink I bought (wasn’t even very good). Personal maintenance because of the pricey Aveda hand cream. And “Other” (mostly) because of the iphone screen repair. I say “mostly” because I had gone over by $9 already prior to Wednesday, but then the broken phone really exacerbated things.

What have I learned?

  1. Don’t forget the dang money envelopes!
  2. Apparently if my plans go out the window I say “screw it” and spend with reckless abandon???
  3. Stress exacerbates my spending problems!

I was certainly stressed about the broken phone and the copious amounts of work I needed to get to at home. I think my rush and stress fed into these spending issues. I knew I didn’t have money to buy a $22 hand lotion but I guess I just blocked it from my mind. And I knew I was already at my limit for eating out, but I rationalized that I needed to eat and I was stuck at the mall so might as well get something (even though I could’ve waited the extra 30 minutes until I got back home).

I really have no good excuses. We all make mistakes. I’m glad I have to come report here to you and be held accountable so this little spending-binge was isolated to a single morning, rather than continuing on for the rest of the week (in an “oh screw it, I’ve already busted the budget” type of fashion).

One thing that makes me feel slightly better is that we did save a little bit on daycare this month. There were 2 days when our childcare provider’s kids were sick so the girls had stayed home with me. So I did save $100 on childcare. Of course I busted the budget by OVER that amount, so it doesn’t “make up” for my over-spending but it does make me feel a little less sting from my expenditures.

Onward. June is a new month. Budget update later today.

How do you recover from over-expenditures? How do you get back on track when your budget has been derailed?